Something in the Water (Charlotte Avenue Entertainment, 2023)
Reviewed by Jim Hynes
Like most songwriters, these kinds of songs are born on the road which is conducive to long periods of introspection – "I think I have a buddy in Tulsa/Maybe I can see her next year." Sometimes the scenery plays in and this one has a video filled with retro imagery such as a vintage cinema, the green '65 Mustang and the dive bar. The spare, rockabilly "A Whole Lot to Remember" has an accompanying video shot in black and white as Ybarra fronts a simple trio of upright bass and drums -Billy Thomas on drums and Dow Tomlin on bass. Other supporting musicians are David Flint (guitars, mandolin), Dane Bryant (piano and keys), and Ybarra and Thomas on backing vocals.
The pounding roots-rocker "Bloodfire" has been issued as a single, a hybrid outlaw country/southern rock blazer that's an ode to our collective evil sides. While he proves his mettle on that type of tune, far more interesting are his narratives including the acoustically picked, organ bathed "Savannah's Song," about another love that got away. The mandolin-inflected "Long Winter" depicts an unsettled couple trapped indoors, growing weary of the boredom while "No Reason Or Right," the strongest track, has the homeowner protagonist discovering letters from a 100-year romance of the previous owners.
The gentle but subtly sarcastic "Call Me By My Name" speaks to the under-appreciated troubadour life. The title track is one of those haunting indelible tracks – "I wait for my bell to toll." His "Disappear" takes a similar tact, contemplating either a getaway or reinvention of self.
This hard-won wisdom is unusual for a 25-year-old who sings the piano ballad "Silly Little Things" from the perspective of a man pushing 60. He pulls it all off with aplomb, reminding us how good it feels to be alive in the closing chorus.
CDs by Jake Ybarra
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